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To lose one central defender may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose another looks like carelessness; and to lose three, as Liverpool have for the rest of this season, is downright bad luck.
Perhaps Jurgen Klopp realised the importance of being earnest when circumstances forced his hand into the transfer market. Once Cameroon international Joel Matip joined Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk on the treatment table, cover was desperately needed.
Makeshift midfielders operating at the back in their stead simply hasn’t worked. Injuries have at least damaged, if not completely ruined the Reds mounting a defence of the Premier League title that was 30 years in the making.
Those signed as short-term replacements are on a hiding to nothing. Klopp was frank enough to admit that, normally speaking, Liverpool don’t sign players from Preston North End like Ben Davies. Things have moved on since Mark Lawrenson, although for the record he had a spell with Brighton & Hove Albion between his days at Deepdale and Anfield.
Liverpool’s new CB 🔒
How much impact will Ozan Kabak have? pic.twitter.com/hWHs5rzChf
— International Champions Cup (@IntChampionsCup) February 2, 2021
Stranger still is the loan capture of Ozan Kabak. A recommendation from David Wagner, a member of Klopp’s backroom team at Borussia Dortmund best known for taking Huddersfield Town up into the Premier League, contributed to his switch from Schalke.
Here was Liverpool looking in the winter window at the eleventh hour for stopgap solutions to their defensive dearth, and in came a player from the club rock bottom of the Bundesliga. Highly rated as Kabak is in both his homeland of Turkey and Germany where he spent the last three years, just one look at where Schalke sat in the table had Reds fans raising eyebrows at his arrival.
It remains to be seen if the 2018-19 Bundesliga rookie of the year turns out to be an inspired signing who rocks the Kop or not. His form in Germany during the first half of the season doesn’t include many clean sheets, but there was a ban for spitting at an opponent.
Klopp can ill afford such lapses in discipline. A suspended Kabak would be part of the problem, not the solution. Liverpool have slipped down the Premier League to 19 points off the pace set by Manchester City, the team they overhauled to become champions last season.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) February 5, 2021
Their football betting odds of winning the title again have drifted out to 200/1 as a result. A top four finish and securing a spot in next season’s Champions League is still odds-on with bookmakers, 8/11 with 888sport. But things need to turn around – sharpish.
Lost ground can be difficult to make up, and City are certainly in the driving seat. Their biggest issue, a lack of fitness for star striker Sergio Aguero, has proved less detrimental to a strong bid of regaining the Premier League crown lost when Pep Guardiola did not replace Vincent Kompany in defence.
Now the boot is on the other foot, and Liverpool haven’t liked the lick of it. They have it all to do even with new defensive recruits to defy their lengthening odds and keep the title at Anfield.